Tag Archives: Adnan

U.S. Military Suicides and Palestinian Hunger Strikes

12 Jun


             There is some awareness in the United States that suicides among American military personnel are at the highest level since the years of the Vietnam War. It is no wonder. The sense of guilt and alienation associated with taking part in the Afghanistan War, especially multiple postings to a menacing war zone for a combat mission that is increasingly hard to justify and almost impossible to carry out successfully, seems sufficient to explain such a disturbing phenomenon. These tragic losses of life, now outnumbering battlefield deaths, about one per day since the start of 2012, are not hidden from the American public but nor do they provoke an appropriate sense of concern, of better, outrage. This contrasts with the Vietnam years, especially toward the end of the war, when many families with children at risk in a war that had lost its way and was being lost took to the streets, pressured their Congressional representatives, spoke at anti-war rallies, and supported their sons unwillingness to take part. Now there is a stony silence in American society, which seems to be a confirmation that we now are ‘citizens’ of or ‘patriots’ in an authoritarian democracy, or more urbanely, ‘subjects’ of a constitutional democracy. We are less than ever cognizant of the Jeffersonian imperative: the health of this democracy depends on the conscience and vigilance of its citizens.

 

            Anthony Swofford, a former marine, seeking to comprehend what Newsweek in a cover story (May 25, 2012) acknowledges to be “an epidemic” of suicides among combat veterans takes note of the resistance to self-scrutiny on the part of the governmental branches most involved. In his words, “the Department of Veteran Affairs and the military shy away from placing blame directly on the psychological and social costs of killing during combat.” There is some attention given apparently to improving the screening process so that potential suicides are not inducted, but no sensitivity to the deeply alienating experience of being assigned to kill in an utterly unfamiliar human environment as is the case with Afghanistan and Iraq that is naturally hostile to such an occupation by a distant country with an entirely different cultural orientation. If you have seen pictures of heavily armed American foot soldiers on patrol in an Afghan village feelings of surreal misfit seem inescapable. And yet, there is no national sense of responsibility associated with sending young Americans into situations where the harm done to themselves not only puts their lives and wellbeing in jeopardy as a result of being exposed to enemy weapons but also subjects them to often invisible traumatic wounds of the assigned combat duties that rarely altogether heal even many years after leaving the war zone.

 

            These wounds are far more widespread than even the high incidence of suicide suggests, often expressed in less dramatic and terminal ways. It is a monumental expression of insensitivity to the wellbeing of our youth that we put them in harm’s way to carry out a war effort that has long been drained of meaning, and that our leaders are at a loss to explain.  True patriotism in this century should produce an angry uproar and public debate before acquiescing in such a cruel indifference to the fate of our young warriors, who are disproportionately poor and frequently members of a marginalized minority. This insensitivity is, of course, far less pervasive than when the victims are ‘others.’ This is illustrated by the national failure to raise questions about the state terror associated with drone attacks on village communities in foreign countries that undoubtedly spreads acute fear and feelings of vulnerability to the entire population, and not just to those who might imagine themselves to be selected by an American president as a kill target.

 

            The relationship of these suicides to the recent wave of Palestinian hunger strikers objecting to Israeli practices of detention without charges or trial and to deplorable arrest and prison conditions is worth commenting upon. The hunger strikers are arousing widespread sympathy among their population, and a growing commitment to protest their confinement and celebrate their courage, embracing their acts as essential expressions of Palestinian nonviolent resistance to occupation, annexation, and apartheid conditions. Unlike suicides among veterans, which are lonely acts of desperation because the conditions of living have become endurable, the hunger strikers are willingly and knowingly engaging in a punishing self-decreed refusal to accept food as the only means available to call attention to their severe grievances. Their acts express an intense desire for life, not death, but their statement to the world is that when conditions become so dreadful it is preferable to die than to be further humiliated by intolerable mistreatment.

 

            The first hunger striker, Khader Adnan, since his release in April tells of why he engaged in such extreme violence against his body despite a deep attachment to his family and village life: “The reasons behind my hunger strike were the frequent arrests and treatment received when arrested and the third was the barbaric methods of interrogation in prison—they humiliated me. They put dust of their shoes on my moustache, they picked hairs out of my beard, they tied my hand behind my back and to the chair which was tied to the floor. They put my picture on the floor and stepped on it. They cursed my wife, and my daughter who was less than a year and four months old with the most offensive words they could use.” The hunger strikes have finally brought to light such patterns of humiliation long imposed on imprisoned Palestinians. What Adnan did inspired many others among Palestinian prisoners, and at present there remain at least three Palestinians risking death to abide by their plea for life and dignity, and these include a prominent member of the Palestinian national football team who has been held as an ‘unlawful combatant’ since July 2009, Mahmoud Sarsak, now 90 days without food (the two others are Akram al-Rakhaw, 70 days, and Sunar al-Berq).

 

            These dual sad set of circumstances both involve fundamental wrongs associated with the violence of states. The American suicides are essentially sacrifices of lives at the altar of the Martian god of war, while the Palestinian hunger strikes are struggles to survive in the face of state terror imposed in darkness on those who show any signs of resistance to an occupation that has gone on for 45 years and has become more and more oppressive with the passage of time. As Adnan said of his experience of arrest in the middle of the night and release: “..they are trying to hurt our dignity..and released me in the dark, late at night..they only work in the darkness.”

 

            Despite this darkness, we should be able to see what is happening, and respond with whatever means are at our disposal. In America we are mostly kept in the dark with respect to Palestinian suffering, and as for our Americans victims of war, we are informed, but not enlightened, and thus are caught in the headlights, supposing that these military suicides are an unfathomable mystery rather than realizing that they are inevitable byproducts of wars fought in strange foreign lands for no credible defensive purpose. 

Historic Hunger Strikes: Lightning in the Skies of Palestine

8 May


 

There is ongoing militant expression of Palestinian resistance to the abuses of Israel’s 45 years of occupation and de facto annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and five year blockade of Gaza taking the form of a series of hunger strikes. Recourse to this desperate tactic of courageous self-sacrifice is an extreme form of nonviolence, and should whenever and wherever it occurs be given close attention. Palestinians have protested by hunger strikes in the past but failed to inspire the imagination of the wider Palestinian community or shake the confidence of Israeli officialdom. Despite the averted gaze of the West, especially here in North America, there are some signs that this time the hunger strikes have crossed a historic threshold of no return.

 

These strikes started by the individual exploit of a single person, Khader Adnan, at the end of 2011. Dragged from his home in the village of Arraba near Jenin by a night raid by dozens of Israeli soldiers, humiliated and roughed up in the presence of his two and four year old daughter, carried away shackled and blindfolded, roughly interrogated, and then made subject to an administrative decree for the eighth time in his young life, Adnan’s inner conscience must have screamed ‘Enough!’ and he embarked on an open-ended hunger strike. He continued it for 66 days, and agreed to take food again only after the Israeli authorities relented somewhat, including a pledge not to subject Adnan to a further period of administrative detention unless further incriminating evidence came to the surface. Upon release, Adnan to depersonalize his ordeal insisted on visiting the families of other Palestinians currently under administrative detention before returning to his own home.

He has spoken out with firm gentleness and invited persons of conscience everywhere to join in the struggle to induce Israel to abandon administrative detention, and the accompanying violations of Palestinian human rights. Khader Adnan’s open letter to the people of the world is reproduced below to convey the tone and substance of his struggle.

 

Following Adnan, and inspired by him, was Hana Shalabi, a young Palestinian woman subject to a similar abusive arrest, accompanied by humiliations associated with her dress and sexual identity. Shalabi was from the villange of Burqin also near Jenin, and had been released a few months earlier in October 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange that was negotiated to obtain the release of the sole Israeli captive, Gilad Shalit. She had seldom strayed from her family home prior to the re-arrest on February 16, 2012, and her life was described as follows by her devoted sister, Zahra: “The four months between October and February were trouble-free days, bursting with dreams and ambitions. Hana loved to socialize and meet with people. She was busy with getting her papers in order to register for university, with her eyes set on enrolling at the American University in Jenin. She wanted to get her driver’s license, and later buy a car. She went on a shopping spree, buying new carpets and curtains for her bedroom…and she dreamed of getting married and of finding the perfect man to spend the rest of her life with.” It is little wonder that when arrested in the middle of the night she reacted in the manner described by Zahra: “She was panicking, and kept repeating over and over again that she was not going with the soldiers because she didn’t do anything.”

 

As with Adnan, Shalabi was released after she was in critical condition, but in a vindictive manner, being sent to live in Gaza for three years, thereby separated from her family and village, which were her places of refuge, love, and nurturing. She also made it clear that her experience of resistance was not meant for herself alone, but was intended to contribute to the struggle against prison abuse and the practice e of administrative detention, but even more generally as engagement in the struggle for Palestinian rights, so long denied. The example set by Adnan and Shalabi inspired others subject to similar treatment at the hands of the Israelis arrest and prison service. Several Palestinians detained by administrative detention decrees commenced hunger strikes at the end of February, and as many as 1650 others, and possibly more,  initiated a massive hunger strike on Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, April 17th that is continuing, and has been named ‘the battle of empty stomachs.’ The main battlefield is the mind of the oppressor, whether to give in and seem weak or remain firm and invite escalating censure, as well as Palestinian militancy, should any of those now in grave condition die.     

 

The latest news suggests that Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, continuing their hunger strike that started on February 28th of this year, are clinging to life by a thread. A few days ago they were both been finally transferred to civilian hospitals. Mr. Halahleh after the 70th day without food announced that he was  no longer willing even to drink any water or accept further medication.

 

As might be expected the voices of concern from the international community have been muted and belated. The International Committee of the Red Cross has finally expressed in public its concern for the lives of these strikers. The UN Envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, never someone outspoken, acknowledged a few days ago in a brief and perfunctory statement that he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the danger to these hunger strikers, as if such a sentiment was somehow sufficient to the outrages being inflicted.

 

 

More persuasively, several human rights NGOs, including Physicians for Human Rights–Israel have been reminding Israel of its obligation to allow family visits, which prison authorities have repeatedly denied, despite it being an accepted tenet of medical ethics that is affirmed in Israel’s Patient’s Rights Law.

 

On May 7, 2012 the Israel’s High Court of Justice denied urgent petitions for release from administrative detention filed on behalf of Mr. Diab and Mr. Halahleh. The Court in a classic example of the twisted way judges choose to serve the state rather than the cause of justice declared: “Hunger strikes cannot serve as an element in a decision on the very validity of administrative detention, since that would be confusing the issue.” Would it be so confusing to say that without some demonstration of evidence of criminality rejecting such a petition amounts to imposing a death sentence without even the pretensions of ‘a show trial’ that relies on coerced confessions? Israel’s highest judicial body leaves no doubt about their priorities by invoking anti-terrorism as a blanket justification, saying that Israel “should not have to apologize for securing its own safety.”

 

Other reports that the Israeli government has yet to feel pressure from European governments to act in a more humanitarian manner in response to these hunger strikes, but is worried that such pressure might come soon. After

remaining silent for a long time, Robert Serry, the UN Envoy to the Middle East, a few days ago timidly issued a public statement saying that he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the near death condition of the Mr. Diab and Mr. Halahleh.

 

On a wider canvas, the hunger strikes are clearly having some effect on Israeli prison policy, although it is not clearly discernible as yet. The Israeli Public Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, convened a meeting in which he voiced the opinion that Israeli reliance on administrative detention was excessive, and should be reduced. There is also some discussion with officials of the Israeli Prison Service and a committee representing some of the April 17th prisoners on a series of demands relating to prison conditions.

 

The following demands have been articulated by the April 17th hunger strikers, under the banner of ‘The Prisoners Revolution’:

 

1. Ending the Israeli Administrative detention and solitary confinement, in which Palestinians were imprisoned for more than ten consecutive years, in solitary cells that lack basic human necessities of life.

2. Allowing family visits to those from the Gaza Strip due to political decisions and unjust laws, such as the so-called “law of Shalit.

3. Improving the livelihood of prisoners inside Israeli Jails and allowing basic needs such as a proper health treatment, education and TV channels and newspapers.

4. Putting an end to the humiliation policy carried by the Israeli Prison Service against Palestinian prisoners and their families, through humiliating naked inspection, group punishment, and night raids.   

 ***********

 

Khader Adnan’s Open Letter to the Free People of the World

 

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,*

 

 * Praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of

 Allah.*

 

 Dear free people of the world. Dear oppressed and disenfranchised around

 the globe. Dear friends of our people, who stood with me with a stern belief in     freedom and dignity for my people and our prisoners languishing

in the Occupation’s prisons.

 

 Dear free women and men, young and elderly, ordinary people as well as

 intellectual elites everywhere – I address you today with an outpouring of

 hope and pain for every Palestinian that suffers from the occupation of his

 land, for each of us that has been killed, wounded or imprisoned by the

 state of terror, that denies anything beautiful in our lives, even the

 smile of our children and families. I am addressing you in my first letter

 following my release – praying it will not be the last – after Allah

 granted me freedom, pride and dignity. I was an “administrative detainee”

 in the jail of occupation for four months, out of which I have spent 66

 days on hunger strike.

 

 

 I was driven to declare an open-ended hunger strike by the daily harassment

 and violation of my people’s rights by the Israeli Zionist occupation. The

 last straw for me were the ongoing arrests, the brutal nighttime raid on my

 house, my violent detention, during which I was taken to the “Mavo Dotan”

 settlement on our land occupied 1967, and the beatings and humiliation I

 was treated to during arrest interrogation. The way I was treated during

 the interrogation at the Jalameh detention center, using the worse and

 lowest verbal insults in the dictionary. After questioning, I was sentenced

 to imprisonment under administrative detention with no charges, which

 proves mine and others’ arrests serve only to maintain a quota of

 prisoners, to harass us, to restrict our freedom and to undermine our

 determination, pride and dignity.

 

 

 I write today to thank all those who stood tall in support of my people,

 with our prisoners, with Hana al-Shalabi and with myself. I call on you to

 stand for justice pride and dignity in the face of occupation. The assault

 on the freedom and dignity of the Palestinian people is an assault on free

 people of the world by a criminal occupation that threatens the security,

 freedom and dignity of all, no matter where.

 

 

 Please, continue in exposing this occupation, boycotting and isolating it

 internationally. Expose its true face, the one that was clearly exposed in

 the attack of an Israeli officer on our Danish cohort. Unlike that attack,

 the murder our people is a crime that goes by unspoken of and slips away

 from the lens of the camera. Our prisoners are dying in silence. Hundreds

 of defenders of freedom are on hunger strike inside the prisons, including

 the eight knights, Bilal Diab and Thaer Hlahalh, who are now on their 61st

 day of hunger strike, Hassan Safadi, Omar Abu Shalal, Mahmoud Sarsak,

 Mahmoud Sarsal, Mohammad Taj, Jaafar Azzedine (who was arrested solely           for standing in solidarity with myself) and Ahmad haj Ali. Their lives now are

 in great danger.

 

 We are all responsible and we will all lose if we anything happen to them.

 Let us take immediate action to pressure the Occupation into releasing them

 immediately, or their children could never forgive us.

 

 Let all those free and revolutionary join hands against the Occupation’s

 oppression, and take to the streets – in front of the Occupation’s prisons,

 in front of its embassies and all other institutions backing it around the

 world.

 

 With deep appreciation,

 

*Khader Adnan *

 

++++

 

Having followed these hunger strikes for several months, I am convinced that these individuals subject to administrative detention are ordinary persons living a normal life, although chafing under the daily rigors and indignities of prolonged occupation. Israeli commentary tends to divert humanitarian concerns by branding these individuals as ‘terrorists,’ taking note of their alleged affiliation with Islamic Jihad. Adnan who is obviously preoccupied with his loving family, a baker by profession, working in his village, does not seem a particularly political person beyond the unavoidable political response to a structure of domination that is violent, cruel, and abusive. The language of his Open Letter is one that exhibits moral intensity, and seeks support for the Palestinian struggle for a sustainable peace with justice. It has none of the violent imagery or murderous declarations found in Al Qaeda’s characteristic calls for holy warfare against the infidels.

 

I was impressed by Hana Shalabi’s sister’s response when asked about the alleged connection with Islamic Jihad. Zahra responded to the question with a smile saying, ‘She’s not really Islamic Jihad. She doesn’t belong to any faction. When Israel imprisons you, their security forces ask which political faction you belong to. Hana chose Islamic Jihad on a whim.’ Even if it was than a whim, for a religious person to identify with Islamic Jihad it does not at all imply a commitment to or support for terrorist tactics of resistance. Zahra asks rhetorically, ‘Does she have missiles or rockets? Where is the threat to Israel? ..Why can’t we visit her? She has done nothing.’ And finally, ‘I would never place my enemy in my sister’s position…I would not wish this on anyone.’

 

Israel has by vague allegations of links to terrorist activities tried its best to dehumanize these hunger strikers, or to dismiss such actions as the foolish or vain bravado of persons ready to renounce their lives by their own free will. But their acts and words if heeded with empathy, their show of spiritual stamina and sense of mission, convey an altogether different message, one that exhibits the finest qualities that human beings can ever hope to achieve. Those of us who watch such heroic dramas unfold should at least do our best to honor these hunger strikers, and not avert our eyes, and do our utmost to act in solidarity with their struggles in whatever way we can.

 

We cannot now know whether these hunger strikes will spark Palestinian resistance in new and creative ways. What we can already say with confidence is that these hunger strikers are writing a new chapter in the story line of resistance sumud, and their steadfastness is for me a Gandhian Moment in the Palestinian struggle.  

Saving Khader Adnan’s Life and Legacy

21 Feb


 

            It is a great relief to those millions around the world who were moved to prayer and action by Khader Adnan’s extraordinary hunger strike of 66 days that has ended due to Israel’s agreement to release him on April 17. We who were inspired by such a heroic refusal to accept humiliation and arbitrary arrest can only hope that for the sake of his family, for the cause of Palestinian resistance, and for the struggle to achieve a just peace that Mr. Adnan will fully recover to resume his personal and political life. We can not take for granted that there will be a full recovery given Mr. Adnan’s critical condition confirmed by examining doctors, just prior to his decision on February 21 to resume eating in a normal manner.

 

            While it is appropriate to celebrate this ending of the strike as ‘a victory’ there are several disturbing features that deserve comment. To call an arrangement that saved someone’s life a ‘deal,’ as the media consistently put it, is itself demeaning, and reveals at the very least a failure to appreciate the gravity and deep dedication of purpose that is bound up with such a nonviolent form of resistance. Similarly, the carelessness of the initial reactions was notable, often referring to Mr. Adnan’s ‘release’ when in fact he will be still held in administrate detention for several more weeks, and could conceivably be confined much longer, should Israeli military authorities unilaterally decide that ‘substantial evidence’ against him emerges in this period immediately ahead.

 

            It should also be noted that on matters of policy and principle Israel did not retreat even an inch: in relation to Mr. Adnan, he will be remain in captivity and will be subject to the ‘legal’ possibility that his period of imprisonment could still be extended indefinitely; beyond this, Israeli authorities express no willingness whatsoever to review the cases of the 309 other Palestinians who are presently being held under the administrative detention procedure.

 

            These Palestinians being held include one prisoner detained for more than 5 years, and 17 others for periods of 2-4 years. Israel did not even agree to a review of their misapplications of this administrative procedure within their own frameworks of claims about addressing imminent security threats. The general justification of administrative procedures by governments that rely upon it is to insist that its use is reserved for true and credible emergency situations. But as Mustafa Barghouti points out in the New York Times (February 22, 2012) such a claim strains credulity past the breaking point in the Israeli case. Barghouti writes tellingly that it is worth observing “that among..[those] Palestinians now held in ‘administrative detention’ are 21 of the 120 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, most of whom have  been held for years for no apparent crime other than being democratically elected in 2006, in an election universally regarded as free and fair, as candidates of the party which won a clear majority of seats but which Israel does not like.” In other words, the Israeli claims of exceptional circumstances taking precedence over due process protections do not exist in many of the evident political uses of administrative detention as a means of weakening all forms of Palestinian resistance, including nonviolent opposition politics.

 

            It should also be noted that Israeli commentary treated the arrangement ending the standoff produced by the hunger strike with measured cynicism if not disdain. Even those Israeli who supported the agreement justified it as a practical way of avoiding trouble down the road should Khader Adnan have died while held by Israelis, given the breadth and depth of support his extended hunger strike was receiving among Palestinians and sympathizers from around the world. Keeping Mr. Adnan alive was also seen by Israelis as a means to avoid a wider scrutiny of the institution and practice of administrative detention as it has been used by the Israeli military ‘justice’ system.

 

            Also the timing of the announcement of the arrangement is significant. It was made an hour before an emergency session of the Israeli Supreme Court that was scheduled to hear Mr. Adnan’s petition for release, and there is speculation that although this highest judicial body in Israel has in the past consistently supported the military position in such instances, the situation was so extreme that it might prove embarrassing for Israeli military authorities. There were even some worries on the Israeli side that the extremities of this case could produce an adverse result and even a repudiation of the manner in which Israeli authorities used administrative detention as a procedure allegedly for security, but seemingly for the harassment and intimidation of militant opponents of an oppressive occupation that has continued for 45 years and is aggravated by continuously appropriating Palestinian land and water for the benefit of settlement expansion while disrupting and cleansing long-term Palestinian residency.

 

            What was entirely absent from the Israeli public discourse was some expression of compassion, even if only for the family of Mr. Adnan, which consists of two daughters of four years or less and his articulate pregnant wife, Randa. There was not even the slightest show of respect for the dignity of Mr. Adnan’s long hunger strike or sympathy for the acute suffering that accompanies such a determined foregoing of food and speech for an extended period. Instead, the Israeli commentary that was supportive of the arrangement stressed only pragmatic considerations from the perspective of Israel’s interests. It was one more lost opportunity for Israelis of all shades of opinion to reach across the abyss of political conflict to affirm a common humanity.

 

            But in a contrary spirit, the spokesperson for the Netanyahu government, Mark Regev, seemed only interested in deflecting criticism directed at Israel. He parried criticism by cynically observing that other governments rely on administrative dentention in the name of security, including the United States, so why shouldn’t Israel. He also added that the legality of Israel’s use of administrative detention should not be questioned since it depended not on an Israeli law, but on a 1946 law enacted when Britain was controlling Palestine, unintentionally conceding that Israel was the ‘colonial’ successor to the British! If the legal veil is lifted from administrative detention its character is one of ‘internment,’ a standard practice of colonial powers in dealing with unruly natives.

 

            Of course, Israeli ultra hardliners went further in this direction, referring to Mr. Adnan as ‘a terrorist’ despite the vagueness of official allegations that didn’t ever make such a claim, but only mysteriously contended that he constituted what an official in Tel Aviv described as ‘a threat to regional security,’ whatever that might mean. As might be expected, the notorious Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was characteristically forthright, calling his ‘release’ ‘a wrong decision’ yet accepting the outcome because it is ‘our duty to honor and respect every Supreme Court decision even when we don’t agree with it.” As we know, Mr. Adnan was not released nor did the Israeli Supreme Court make a decision.  This comedy of errors by a leading government official should raise questions about Lieberman’s competence, not to mention his questionable political judgment as to policy. Lieberman’s mean spiritedness extended to attacks on Arab members of the Knesset who visited Mr. Adnan as somehow an indication that  by so doing they were ‘representing terrorists.’ Similarly, MK Danny Danon ignored the context and scorned the agreement ending the hunger strike by calling it reprehensible, an instance of a ‘[capitulation] to terrorism.’

 

            The issues directly raised by this hunger strike are ones of human rights and humane treatment, as well as reliance on administrative detention, and are quite independent of whether or not we endorse Mr. Adnan’s past and present tactics of resistance, which are not at all clear. Some apologists for Israel have tried to deflect these ethical and legal concerns by emphasizing Mr. Adnan’s association with Islamic Jihad and its record of violent attacks and extremist politics. Israelis casually refer to Mr. Adnan as a ‘terrorist’ without charges or proof. He has, in fact, been most often described in recent years more neutrally by those knowledgeable about his role and activities as a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, but not engaged beyond this. There is no indication in his past or present that he was directly involved in violence, although an undated and unverified YouTube video has surfaced somewhat suspiciously in which Mr. Adnan is depicted as advocating violent resistance and an active recruiter of suicide bombers. Although Islamic Jihad has been responsible in the past for suicide bombings it has seemingly abandoned the practice, which is in line with the repudiation of such forms of violent resistance by Hamas more than ten years ago. Mr. Adnan’s prior arrests  stemmed from militant peaceful demonstrations that landed him in Israeli jails seven times, a Palestinian Authority prison once, and induced him to undertake shorter hunger strikes on three previous occasions, one as recently as 2010.  From what is known, Mr. Adnan is definitely a committed activist who has associated himself with Islamic Jihad, but works on a daily basis as a village baker and maintains a strong family role and popular community presence in his small West Bank town of Arraba.

 

            It is important to pause long enough to take account of Khader Adnan’s achievement, symbolically, substantively, and with respect to future possibilities. We should note that Mr. Adnan’s hunger strike of 66 days is the exact length of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike in 1981 strengthening the bond between the two men, a bond that has been movingly confirmed by a number of Irish family members of their strikers. What is more, the date of Bobby Sands’ death, May 5, 1981, is generally viewed as the turning point in the Irish struggle, the time when the British Government finally started treating the IRA as a political actor with genuine grievances rather than as a terrorist organization that must be run into the ground and exterminated. We can only hope that Febuary 21, 2012 will live in history as a turning point in the Palestinian struggle. Only the future will reveal whether this is a pious wish on my part or becomes over time a historical reality.

 

            Substantively, it is crucial to support a campaign to free the other several hundred Palestinians currently being held in administrative detention and to exert enough pressure to end reliance on the practice altogether. Mr. Adnan’s brave stand will have been mostly without effect if his compelling exposure of the cruelty and arbitrariness of Israeli reliance on administrative detention is allowed to slip from view now that his strike is over. Instead, knowing what we have come to know, it is the responsibility of all of us to do all we can to discredit and force the abandonment of administrative detention by Israel, and as well, challenge its role in the United States and elsewhere. A fitting tribute to Mr. Adnan’s hunger strike would be to put opposition to administrative detention on the top of the human rights agenda throughout the world. We should begin by refusing to use the phrase ‘administrative detention,’ rechristening it as ‘administrative torture’ or ‘lawless captivity,’ and associate with past colonial and present authoritarian tendencies of ‘democratic’ governments.

 

            And finally, we will know the enduring significance of Mr. Adnan’s self-sacrifice by what takes place in the future. Will this event, possibly along with other influences, inspire a greater commitment to the Palestinian struggle for peace, justice, and liberation in occupied Palestine and throughout the world? Maybe ‘the regional threat’ that was being referred to by the Israeli official justifying Mr. Adnan’s detention was an indirect, and hopefully accurate reference to the growing impact of the positive sides of the Arab Spring, that is, as an occasion prompting a further awakening of self-empowerment among Palestinians both in relation to their struggle and in their renewed quest for unity among themselves. In effect, let us hope that Khader Adnan’s bravery becomes contagious and will be remembered as a charismatic event in the long narrative of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.


           

Saving Khader Adnan’s Life Saves Our Own Soul

18 Feb


             The world watches as tragedy unfolds beneath its gaze as Khader Asnan enters his 63rd day as a hunger striker in an Israeli prison being held under an administrative detention order without trial, without charges, and without any indication of the evidence against him. From the outset of his brutal arrest by scores of soldiers, featuring blindfolding, cuffing, and physical roughness in the middle of the night, a gratuitous ritual enacted the presence of his wife and young daughters Khader Adnan has been subject to the sort of inhumane and degrading treatment that is totally unlawful and inexcusable, and an assault on our moral justification. At present, approximately 300 other Palestinians are being held in administrative detention, and Mr. Adnan has indicated that his protest is also on their behalf, and indeed against the practice of administrative detention itself.

 

            The only plausible explanation of such Israeli behavior is to intimidate by terrifying all Palestinians who have lived for almost 45 years under the yoke of an oppressive occupation that continuously whittles away at Palestinian rights under international humanitarian law, especially their right to self-determination, which is encroached upon every time a new housing unit is added to the colonizing settlements that dot the hilltops surrounding Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. While Palestinian prospects of a viable political future are continuously diminished by Israeli expansionism the world politely watches in stunned silence. Only resistance from within and solidarity worldwide can provide the Palestinians with hope about their future. They have been failed over and over again by the UN, by the EU, by their Arab neighbors, and above all by that global leader beholden to Israel whose capital is in Washinton, D.C.! It is only against this broader background that the importance of Khader Adnan’s resistance to the continuing struggle of Palestinians everywhere can begin to be appreciated as a political act as well as an insistence on the sacred dignity of the human person.

 

            The case of Khader Adnan is a revealing microcosm of the unbearable cruelty of prolonged occupation, and the contrast that is drawn in the West between the dignity of a single Israeli prisoner held in captivity and the steadfast refusal to be attentive to the abuse of thousands of Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails through court sentence or administrative order.  Mr. Adnan’s father poignantly highlighted this contrast a few days ago by reference to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas in captivity for several years and recently released in good health: “Where are the mother and father of Gilad Shalit? Do they not feel for me in this humanitarian case? Where are they?” The comparison pointedly suggests that it is Mr. Adnan who is the more deserving of such a global outpouring of concern: “My son was arrested from his house, from among his wife and children, was taken prisoner. He was not carrying any weapon. Whereas Shalit was fighting against the people of Gaza, and destroying their homes, and firing upon, and Shalit was released.” In fact, Shalit has not been personally associated with violence against the Palestinians and their property, but he was operating as a member of the IDF that has been consistently engaged in such activity, frequently in stark violation of international humanitarian law. While Shalit was being held foreign authority figures, from the UN Secretary General on down, displayed their empathy not only for Shalit but for the intense anxiety experienced by Israelis concerned for the wellbeing of Shalit, but these same personalities are notably silent in the much more compelling ordeal taking place before our eyes in the form of Mr. Adnan’s captivity seemingly unto death. It should not be surprising that surviving family members of IRA hunger strikers should step forward to express solidarity with Mr. Adnan and the compare the Irish transforming acts of resistance in 1981 (ten hunger strikers died, and Britain shifted from counterterrorism to a politics of reconciliation) to that of the Palesinians, increasingly referring to Khader Adnan as the West Bank Bobby Sands.

 

            And who is Khader Adnan? We do not know very much about him except that he is a member of the Islamic Jihad Party, a 33-year old father of two young daughters, a baker by profession, and viewed with respect and affection by his neighbors. There are no accusations against him that implicate him in violence against civilians, although he has a history of imprisonment associated with his past activism. A fellow prisoner from an earlier period of confinement in Ashkelon Prison, Abu Maria, recalls Mr. Adnan’s normalcy, humanity, and academic demeanor while sharing a cell, emphasizing his passionate dedication to informing other imprisoned Palestinians about the history and nature of the conflict: “Prison was like a university in those times and he was one of the professors.” Commenting on his hunger strike that has brought him extreme pain, Abu Maria says he is convinced that Khader Asnan wants to live, but will not at the price of enduring humiliation for himself and others held in administrative detention: “He is showing his commitment and resistance in the only way he can right now, with his body.”

 

            Addameer, the respected Palestinian NGO concerned with prisoner issues, “holds Israel accountable for the life of Khader Adnan, whose health has entered an alarmingly critical stage that will now have irreversible consequences and could lead to his fatal collapse at any moment.” Physicians who have observed his current condition conclude that, at most, Mr. Adnan could live a few more days, saying that such a hunger strike cannot be sustained beyond 70 days in any event. Any attempt at this stage to keep Mr. Adnan alive by forced feeding would be widely viewed as a violation of his right to life and is generally regarded as a type of torture.

 

            Finally, the reliance by Israel on administrative detention in cases of this sort is totally unacceptable from the perspective of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, especially so with no disclosure of the exceptional circumstances or evidence that might warrant for reasons of imminent security the use of such an extra-legal form of imprisonment for a few days. Given the number of Palestinians being held in a manner similar to that of Mr. Adnan, it is no wonder that sympathy hunger strikes among many Palestinians in and out of Israeli jails are underway as expressions of solidarity. Have we not reached a stage in our appreciation of human rights that we should outlaw such barbarism by state authorities, which is cunningly shielded from critical scrutiny by the anonymity and bureaucratic neutrality of the term ‘administrative detention’? Let us hope and make sure that the awful experience of Khader Adnan does not end with his death, and let us hope and do everything in our power to encourage a worldwide protest against both administrative detention and prisoner abuse and by the government of Israel, and in due course elsewhere. The Palestinian people have suffered more than enough already, and passivity in the face of such state crimes is an appalling form of complicity. We should expect more from our governments, the UN, human rights NGOs, and ourselves!

 

            



Help End the Hunger Strike of Khader Adnan

15 Feb

I am publishing here my press release of today expressing urgent concern about the fate of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian activist, who is near death resulting from his continuing hunger strike that expresses his refusal to accept the humiliating conditions of imprisonment without charges and accompanied by an Israeli court approved denial of visitation rights to his wife. Please do whatever you can to exert pressure to obtain the immediate release of Mr. Adnan, and to make the world aware that Israel is responsible for respecting his rights and protecting his wellbeing.  The text below is released under the auspices of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and prepared in my role as Special Rapporteur for Occcupied Palestine of the Human Rights Council.

*****

> Israel: UN rights expert appeals for international help for a Palestinian
> prisoner on hunger strike
>
> CAIRO / GENEVA (15 February 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur
> on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied
> since 1967, Richard Falk, expressed his urgent and extreme concern
> regarding the situation of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, and urged
> the international community to intervene on his behalf.
>
> “I call on the international community, especially States with close
> relations with Israel, to urge the Israeli Government to fulfill its
> responsibilities under international law, most urgently with regard to Mr.
> Adnan,” the human rights expert said. Mr. Adnan, whose life is reportedly
> in jeopardy, has maintained a hunger strike for 60 days in response to the
> humiliating circumstances of his imprisonment without charges by the
> Government of Israel.
>
> “In view of the emergency of his situation, the Government of Israel must
> take immediate and effective action to safeguard Mr. Adnan’s life, while
> upholding his rights,” stressed the Special Rapporteur, who is currently
> undertaking a fact-finding mission to the region.
>
> Mr. Falk also called on the Government of Israel to respect its legal
> obligations pertaining to the several thousand Palestinians it has
> imprisoned. “The improper treatment of thousands of Palestinian prisoners
> by the Government of Israel should be of great concern to the
> international community, and it is a problem that I am paying close
> attention to in the context of my ongoing visit to the region.”
>
> The Special Rapporteur will convene a press conference at the end of his
> regional visit, on 20 February in Amman, and will submit a full report on
> his mission to the Human Rights Council in June 2012.
>
> ENDS
>
> In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United
> States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of
> human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate
> was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights.
>
> Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur:
> http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm
>
> OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories:
> http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
>
> OHCHR Country Page – Israel:
> http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx
>
> For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (+41
> (0)79 509 0557 / kturner@ohchr.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org.
>
> For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
> Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)
>
> UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
> Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire
> YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR
>
> Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en
>

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